27 May

Those Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains

Conference

Tbilisi

June 1-2, 2019

Caucasian House

20 Galaktion Tabidze St.

Saturday June 1st

2:00 pm

Georgia: Long Term Political Alternative as the Vehicle for Fundamental Change

Beka Natsvlishvili, Sopo Japaridze 

Moderated by Neno Charkviani

Georgia has yet to reach the economic indicators it had before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Unemployment, poverty and inequality have become perpetual problems plaguing the country. The dominant ideology of small government and free trade – presented as a fair and effective mechanism without any alternatives – hinders real changes. Every influential government and civil institutions are being used to cultivate and disseminate this perspective. It’s important to break this cycle and offer a viable political alternative which will be based on the participation of a wide spectrum of society with organized workers at the forefront.

Demobilization of social movements globally coincides with the NGO-ization of politics thereby creating expertization of political mobilizations. The links are vertical coming from top to the bottom, thus people aren’t developing horizontal links with each other. Often the “experts” are getting directives from outside forces to push a framework and work on issues often designed to contain societal mobilization instead of strengthening it. One of the tasks of building a political alternative is to create the space for large part of society to be able to join and be part of the creative process of liberation with each other without the dictates of donors, experts and technocrats.

4:15 pm

Global: The State of Social Movements and Forces in the Global “Center”

David Broder, Elena Bezrukova

Moderated by: Giorgi Kobakhidze

Since Georgia is part of the periphery, it is by default subjected to the politics of the center. The interest of all those who struggle for a better future in Georgia must also support the struggles against capitalism in the center since the victory of socialist forces will signal better objective conditions for us in Georgia. Success in Georgia is not guaranteed by the changing politics outside of us, but it does give us leverage. Georgia’s political, social and economic landscape is wholesale adopted from directives, recommendations, and funding from international organizations, EU and US – after all, the thriving libertarian and neoliberal politics are sponsored by US and EU right wing think tanks. At the same time, the geopolitical limitations put on us by the politics of the Russian government is constantly shaping  domestic and foreign policies. It’s easy to see how changes for the better in the center can have a tremendous influence on Georgian progressive forces, Georgian society and our global integration. The future of Georgia is interlinked with advances socialists make in every other country.

6:30 pm

The Failure of Liberal Democracy in the West, the Capitalist Utopia of Eastern Europe/Post-Soviet Countries and the Way Forward

Mark Bergfeld, David Broder, Beka Natsvlishvili 

Moderated by Sopo Japaridze

The social-democratic promise of social justice and equality in the West has remained just an unfulfilled as the conservative promise for the law and order and economic stability. Meanwhile, the post-1968 left finds itself engulfed in crisis as well. The contemporary crisis of ideologies has its roots in the 2008 financial crisis. This has opened up the environment and the issue of migration as new arenas of contestation through which so-called ‘new’ and old actors define themselves and articulate new political fault lines.


Meanwhile, proponents of left-populism, the so-called ‘alt-right’ and movements such as FridaysforFuture protests present themselves as alternatives to the political status quo. Whether these movements and their ideologies will recompose the political landscape in the long-run remains questionable. One thing however is certain that they point to alternative futures which would have been unthinkable before 2008.


Soviet Union was the balancing ideological force of the West. After its collapse, neoliberalism came to dominate the entire European continent and the world. These laissez faire economic policies took on the most radical forms in Eastern Europe, post-Soviet and post-communist countries. Right wing reactionary forces, which have gotten stronger both in eastern and western Europe against the backdrop of the liberal democratic crisis, cannot be the counterweight of liberal elites. We need a counterweight force to capitalism for the most simplest of reasons: to save humankind.

Sunday June 2nd, 2019

3:00 pm

No Progressive Alternative to Capitalism without Feminism and Environmentalism

Giorgi Ptskialadze,  Mariam Vatsadze, Etuna Nogadieli, Salome Adamia

Moderated by Khatia Tkheshelashvili

Recently we often hear the question as to why climate activists and environmentalists are talking about issues such as workers’ rights, social justice, feminism, and anti-capitalism. It could be said that it would be impossible to succeed any other way since the environmental pollution and climate change is the result of the existing capitalist system. This is the same system that is built on the exploitation, oppression and fleecing of workers. To view ecological issues without mentioning the roots of the problems and focus instead on combating the symptoms will never solve the most important problem – climate change. Climate change will make life hardest for the working class, expensive and unbearable. Exactly because of this, the existing green parties of the world are on the whole eco-socialist since climate change is a left issue. 


At the same time, feminism is indispensable to fighting the gendered oppression that reifies and reproduces the capitalist system. Though gendered division has existed in other social systems, the ways capitalism divides workers according to paid and unpaid labor according to gender is essential to capitalism’s continuation, capitalism needs to have free and cheap labor ready at hand in order to limit wages paid and social services offered.  Feminist critique of capitalism as the division of social reproduction and production is even more relevant today in how Georgia is incorporated globally. Georgia has become a source of exporting cheap labor for the social reproduction of the West: providing care for children and the elderly of the developed countries’ middle classes who achieve their middle class status by being able to have the social services met through cheap labor coming in from countries such as Georgia. Domestically, Georgian women have become high demand for surrogacy for couples unable to afford the rates in their own countries. At the same time, there is little productive work in the country, mostly low waged service sectors in tourism which is yet another social reproductive – servicing the resting and leisure of the surrounding regional middle classes. Global “comparative advantage” has deemed Georgia as the provider of social reproduction for the middles classes.

5:30 pm

Organizing the “Whole Worker” and the Importance of the Strike Weapon

Neno Charkviani, Mark Bergfeld

Moderated by Nona Zandarashvili

We are often severely handicapped by the current economic and political structure in strengthening and building workers’ movements in Georgia, yet there seems to be little thought as to how to find our way out of objective constraints as well as over reliance on outdated and inane solutions taken abstractly from other countries experiences that had a far different experiences that led to those institutions. Despite the obstacles faced, unions must consciously adopt organizing in order to embrace worker involvement, and take the time to build connections from the workplace to the community. Every effort has to be made to win through strikes, workers’ mobilization, and organizing instead of reliance on cutting deals. 


Since the mid-1990s, trade unions have been developing ‘organizing’ as one means to renew the labour movement. Organizing has been counter-posed with the servicing approach which has been dominating the union movement and contributed to its long decline.

 

Organizing involves identifying strategic targets, building committees, mapping workplaces, identifying potential leaders and building workers’ class consciousness through action. Yet, too often ‘organizing’ has simply been equivocated with membership recruitment, campaigning, and activism.

 

If the labour movement is serious about renewing itself, it needs to organize workers and involve them in collective bargaining with the goal of restoring worker power through sectoral agreements. Only these can stop the race to the bottom and rebuild a union movement that changes the balance of power.

Full program: